Sunday, November 15, 2009

AI: Imperial Navy versus Ork Air Waaagh

Game: Aeronautica Imperialis
Opponent: Solo
Mission: None
Points: 42
Background: Ork activity has increased right across the Skolarii sector at the end of the 41st millennium. Part of the Imperial response is to allow the Imperial Navy to form an Afriel Strain wing of pilots, the 332nd Fighter Group. Their first engagement is on the Hiveworld of Finschan in the Kandaeon Worlds. Orks have entrenched themselves in the rolling dunes outsides Finschan's hive cities for centuries and have been largely contained, but recently the frequency of their attacks has increased and they have even managed to construct a few squadrons of aircraft. Kolath's Ironkarts are foremost amongst them.

Imperial Navy - 332nd Fighter Group
  • Thunderbolt C 'Overkill' pilot Vladimir Tancred
  • Thunderbolt 1 'Noble Victory' pilot Zaltys Davren

Ork Air Waaagh - Kolath's Ironkarts

  • Fighta 'Jawz of Doom' pilot Skargrod Nobskab
  • Fighta 'Da Ridgeback' pilot Shakskab Naffrunt
  • Fighta 'Flaming Deff' pilot Wazgul Ugrot

Having painted around 80 points of Imperial Navy and Ork Air Waaagh AI planes I decided to put some fighters on the table for a run through of the rules. Rather than just a dryly move the models about I came up with a simple solo rule so I could play through a game.

Instead of choosing which manoeuvre each plane would perform I would instead roll an eight sided die. I would chose the direction and thrust based upon the tactical situation and what I thought the 'real' pilot would do (ie the Orks would get stuck in whenever possible!). I allowed myself a re-roll of the D8 if the first manoeuvre meant the plane would crash into the ground, stall or fly off the battlefield. I would abide by the second roll whatever the result.

Terrain and deployment
There was no terrain and no scenario - I just lined the planes up on each of the short table edges and went at it!

The game

Turn 1
The Imperials won initiative and stayed close together, Overkill making a high-g turn with Noble Victory side slipping.

Flaming Deff turned into the path of the Thunderbolts, while Da Ridgeback flew straight on. Jawz of Doom was further out on the right and made a rolling high-g turn to the left.

Turn 2
The Imperials won initiative again. The Thunderbolts dropped speed and climbed up to their maximum altitude.

Da Ridgeback and Jawz of Doom uncharacteristically hung back but Flaming Deff flew straight up to take on the lead Thunderbolt at medium range. Despite the hail of bullets no shots hit home.

Turn 3
The Imperials won initiative for the third turn in a row. Both planes stayed high, side slipping and dropping speed. This forced Flaming Deff to overshoot but Da Ridgeback made a rolling high-g turn to get into firing position. Jawz of Doom pulled it's own high-g turn to move closer to the Thunderbolts.

Turn 4
The Orks won initiative in this crucial turn. Flaming Deff continued on a straight course away from the action. Da Ridgeback ended up flashing by the front of Overkill which had pulled a high-g turn. Vladimir unloaded his autocannon at point blank range and damaged Da Ridgeback.

Jawz of Doom pulled a rolling high-g turn to get onto the tail of Noble Victory. At point blank range Skargrod couldn't miss and he duly peppered the Thunderbolt with shots. Miraculously Zaltys managed to keep his stricken bird aloft.

Turn 5
Shakskab had obviously seen enough action for one day so flew the damaged Da Ridgeback straight out of the fight and back towards the big Mek's workshops. Wazgul saw Shakskab disengage and bugged out himself in Flaming Deff.

That left Skargrod all alone against two Thunderbolts. He was obviously distracted because his trailing fire failed to damage Noble Victory.

Overkill made a power dive to escape the Ork fighta while Noble Victory pulled a rolling high-g turn at low speed. That meant the speeding Jawz of Doom pulled alongside Noble Victory.

Zaltys and Skargrod made eye contact for the briefest moment before the planes broke off for their own lines.

Result: Imperial Navy win (24 victory points to 10)

  • The rules for this game are very simple to learn and to put into action. After the second or third turn I had the turn sequence and most of the plane stats memorised. One thing I couldn't see, though, was what happened if a plane exceeded it's maximum altitude. This happened a couple of times with the Orks because I kept the Thunderbolts at level nine knowing the Orks couldn't fly that high.
  • My solo rules allowed me to play through the game but I instantly understood that the real enjoyment of AI comes from trying to outguess your opponent. You obviously can't do that if you're simply rolling dice. The rest of the rules are so basic that the whole of your strategy and tactics come from model placement and manoeuvring. However, if I do play solo again I need to modify how I choose the manoeuvre cards. I got unlucky with Flaming Deff and rolled straight three times in a row meaning he flew right off the table! Maybe roll two dice every turn and pick the most appropriate?

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